Friday, August 31, 2012

Very occasional quote of the day: Monk on rehearsing

"What do you want to do, learn how to cheat?"
-- Thelonious Monk


That's from Russ Musto's 2006 interview with Ben Riley on Allaboutjazz.com-- highly worth reading. Riley had just been asked to join the band and wanted to find out if there was going to be a rehearsal before their first gig at the Royal Festival Hall in London.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Groove o' the day: Idris Muhammad on Grant Green's Carryin' On

There's some nice late-60's funk drumming by Idris Muhammad (named Leo Morris at the time) on Grant Green's Carryin' On album. This is from the James Brown tune I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothin':




That same little linear pattern in the last half of the measure happens again, with some elaboration, on the Meters tune Ease Back, from the same record. This has a little more of a New Orleans feel:




During the intro play the first measure only, with a buzz roll on the & of 4. The snare hits are at a fairly uniform volume, with a slight emphasis on the 2 and 4 & in the first measure.

Audio after the break:

With Ornette at the Five Spot

Ornette Coleman
Another little excerpt from Scott K. Fish's  November, 1981 interview with Ed Blackwell, from Modern Drummer. Just a little snapshot of the scene at the Five Spot and the neighboring Jazz Gallery in New York in 1960, back in the days when "a gig" meant you played a club every night for several weeks or months.

SF: Was The Five Spot a good scene?
EB: It was a very happy scene. We were there about three or four months and every night it was packed. A lot of people really began to hear Ornette.
SF: Would horn players sit in with the band?
EB: No. The only person that sat in while I was doing the gig was Lionel Hampton. He came in one night and wanted to play the piano. So he sat in and played the piano!
SF: How about John Coltrane? Did he ever come down to check out the band?
EB: Coltrane would come down but he wouldn't sit in. He'd sit down and listen. During the break he and Ornette would talk quite a bit, but he never sat in. He just wanted to listen and he did a lot of listening. The scene was phenomenal. The same people that owned The Five Spot owned The Jazz Gallery. That club was about two blocks away, around the corner. When Ornette was at The Five Spot, Thelonious Monk was at The Jazz Gallery. He had a very good group: Charlie Rouse on tenor, John Ore on bass, and Frankie Dunlop on drums. They stayed there for quite awhile. After Monk left, John Coltrane went into The Gallery and he had a lot of different people playing with him. We used to go around and listen to him. We were off on Monday nights, so on Monday nights I always made it a point to come down and listen to John. Billy Higgins was drumming with John then. He was the drummer before Elvin joined the group.

Here's a little more historical detail about Ornette Coleman's career during this period

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Completism ad absurdum

x10,000. Go. 
It's kind of interesting when someone runs a common concept to its logical conclusion, forcing you to examine the premise of the original thing. In this case, the Stick Control model of practice materials: applying a variety of sticking patterns to a simple rhythm or rudimental combination, and then combining them using a basic mathematical logic.

Here drummer and scientist Dr. Damian Gregory Allis has taken a Perl script written for generating DNA sequences and adapted it to reel off every single possible 16-note and 12-note sticking combination, in Stick Control format. The end result is over a thousand pages of patterns, which he has made available in several freely-downloadable pdf files [Thanks for the link, Jason! - tb].

Obviously, that's way more than any drummer could (or should) ever dedicate to running conditioning exercises in a single lifetime, and begs a number of thoughts/questions/conclusions:


 1. What the... I... this is- God- what? What am I supposed to do with this when I haven't mastered the first three pages of Stone?


2. Since they are just 8th notes with sticking written in, Stick Control-style exercises have extremely minimal overt musical content; their implied musical content is a couple of steps removed from them, and I've concluded that they are not the best basis for arriving at a true musical conception for playing the drums. It's still a great book-- a primary source-- so I can deal with this approach as a supplement to my usual Syncopation-oriented method. But when confronted with these extra multiple lifetimes worth of materials written in this style, I have to ask if it's the right way to go.


3. I'm noticing that with a number of authors, strictly logical or mathematical sequence has come to be a substitute for musical and educational know-how. Just an observation.


4. This seems comparable to, say, learning French by writing out every single possible subject/verb/object combination in the language. You don't see it done. Even randomly testing yourself with phrases like "the guardrail elucidates the badger" is of extremely limited value. Music and language are dynamic systems- writing out every possibility within a narrow, artificial set of parameters misses the point altogether.


Continued after the break:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ed Blackwell in Africa

Since we're doing a lot with Ed Blackwell lately, here's a little snippet from his November, 1981 Modern Drummer interview by Scott K. Fish, in which he discusses his 1967 and 1968 tours of Africa, and the influence they had on his playing. It's interesting that he felt he wasn't able to retain the specifics of the music he heard, and had to rely on his impressions to bring it into his playing.

Not that he didn't already do something similar; he was exposed to African-derived rhythm and drumming for many years in New Orleans, and it was a mature part of his playing before he ever went to Africa, as David Schmalenberger reminds us in his massive research project about him. But even with that prior exposure, what he heard in Africa clearly made a big impression:

SF: I've read that you felt your trip to Africa freed up your drumming.
EB: It did. I learned that the African drummers play a rhythm in such a way that it's continuous. Individually they were very simple rhythms that would become complex when they would merge. But if you had the chance to walk around the group while they were playing, you could see each cat playing a different rhythm. It was a very simple rhythm that they played, but when you hear the overall thing . . . man! It reminded me so much of the way the guys used to play in New Orleans. In fact, by going to Africa I was able to really dig how much the African culture was maintained in New Orleans as far as their funeral parades. In Africa, when they have funerals, everybody dresses up real colorful and after they're through with everything they have dancing and a big celebration! That was the same thing in New Orleans. They'd march to the graveyard with the body and they'd put the body down. Then they'd come back dancing! Africans, I guess, had the concept that death brings on another life, so it was not anything to be sad about. It's just that the soul is gone to another life. That's the same concept they have in New Orleans. I didn't realize that until I went to Africa and I was able to reflect on the way the funerals were in New Orleans. We had a chance to see a couple of funerals in different places in Africa. The people were just dancing and everything. It wasn't this weeping, wailing and crying. It was happiness. You couldn't tell the relatives of the dead person from anyone else. Everybody was happy.
SF: Did you get a chance to talk with many African drummers?
EB: We had a chance to play with an African troupe from the Cameroons. It was a dance troupe and they were travelling with only one log drummer. We did a concert with them. I had a chance to play with the guy and talk to him. There were two women and two guys dancing, and they were fantastic. They really had the whole show with just that drummer!
SF: Did you start to incorporate African rhythms into your drumming?
EB: Of course. But there's only so much you can retain. I was able to tape some of the stuff on my tape recorder until I ran out of batteries. It was difficult finding batteries around Africa! Some of the things I taped I was able to retain, but after traveling to so many different places, you hear something new and it would just wipe out what you'd just heard. I was exposed to so much stuff that I was able to retain very little . I was able to retain the overall effect of the African drummers as far as how the rhythms would affect an individual, and how to try to relate my own rhythm to that way of playing. But that was all I was able to retain.

Continued after the break, with some audio:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Groove o' the day: Death Wish -- Mike Clark

I told you I mean to do a lot of these this year-- hopefully enough to do a dedicated book of them early in 2013. Today we've got Mike Clark playing with Herbie Hancock on the soundtrack from the Charles Bronson movie Death Wish.  The 70's were a time of very distinctive funk grooves, and Clark-- a jazz guy who found himself caught up in Oakland's funk scene-- was one of the major players responsible for that.



That last bass drum on the 'a' of 4 is optional. You can hear that arranged stuff aside he sticks pretty close to this groove for the bulk of the track, before opening it up towards the end. This would actually be a good candidate for a complete transcription-- let me see what I can do about that...

See also our GOTD with Clark's famous groove from Herbie Hancock's Palm Grease, off of the album Thrust.

YouTube audio after the break, as usual:


How to get real cymbals when you're poor


The sort of thing you're looking for.
This is really a good time to buy used cymbals-- thanks to the wonderful recession, and the proliferation of extremely high-end cymbals, prices for used merely-pro-quality cymbals are as low as they've ever been. Which is why it kills me to see young drummers spending hundreds of dollars on new student-line junk, which will sound like crap for the few years they will own them before finally sending them to the landfill. For about the same money they could have top of the line cymbals that will last a lifetime while sounding great and retain their value-- most of it, anyway.


So buy used. Really used.
The best bargains are moderately old, very grungy pro cymbals-- dirty, dull-looking bronze, painted-on logos only a memory-- if they ever had them to begin with. You're a musician and you play the things for the sound anyway, right? Then get over this consumeristic, virginity-fetishizing thing of needing to unbox perfectly pristine new cymbals-- that only leads to buying crappy-but-shiny student cymbals when you're poor, and spending way too much money on everything even if you're not.


About those student/economy/budget/semi-pro cymbals
OK, those aren't actually cymbals. You might be able to use them as placeholders for cymbals until you can afford real ones, but consider their value to be basically zero-- the money you spend on them basically goes away forever. I think it's a big mistake to buy them new; buying them used you can and should drive and extremely hard bargain-- I would never pay more than about $50 for a used semi-pro ride cymbal, for example. And do your homework so you know the difference between the almost-usable semi-pro cymbals and the true yellow-tinted sheet metal dreck.


Buy online.
Generally, buying a cymbal without playing it first is an anathema to serious drummers, which tends to drive down used prices online. We're going to take advantage of that.

Much more-- this post is really way too long-- after the break:

Friday, August 24, 2012

Busy

Busy all day doing tour-related junk, and transcribing charts-- Blood by Paul Bley, Priestess by Billy Harper, following Gil Evans's arrangement, and a couple of Don Cherry tunes I used to play in the 90's. If they turn out OK we'll be playing those along with the Ornette Coleman stuff on my little Europe tour in November.

In fact, what the heck, here are our old recordings of Mopti and Guinea, by Don Cherry-- you can buy those if you want:





Man, my playing has really changed. And yet it hasn't. Oh, and in keeping with the 6/8 theme, you should cruise over to Four on the Floor and see where Jon McCaslin outlines his own favored version of the Afro 6/8 groove, using the more African-style (that's the way I think of it, anyway) bell pattern.

After the break is some bonus DBMITW:


Thursday, August 23, 2012

GOTD: Ed Blackwell -- still more of Togo

Still more of Ed Blackwell's performance on the tune Togo, from the album Old And New Dreams. Michael Griener in Berlin has helpfully informed me in the comments that a transcription of this entire performance was published in the Percussive Arts Society magazine Percussive Notes a couple of years ago, so any of you perc majors who want more of this should know someone with that issue in their library.

Variations on this groove occur in Blackwell's playing a fair amount-- it sounds familiar if you listen to him much.  It comes in after 3:29:



And again, for clarity, without the feet:


See the last entry for links to purchase the album or track.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Groove o' the day: Ed Blackwell -- more Togo

Another Ed Blackwell groove today, from a little deeper in the same tune as the last GOTD, Togo, from the self-titled Old And New Dreams on ECM (there's also one on the Black Saint label, which is also highly worth owning). We're also getting a little deeper into Blackwell's thing, as this one is rather challenging. It occurs at 3:21:




I wouldn't worry too much about getting those open and closed hihat notes exactly right-- that's just what he played at that moment-- I'd shoot for open sounds on 1 and 3, and closed sounds on 2 and 4, and let God sort out the &'s. That feet part does muddy the waters substantially, so here it is with the hands only, with one possible sticking:



A little ungainly. If anyone comes up with a more elegant sticking, feel free to share it in the comments.

Again, this isn't available on the youtubes, so you'll just have to buy the record, or, pathetically, just the one track.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On the varieties of stickings

Here's a nice geekish piece at by E.W. Flack at The Drumslingers, in which he goes in depth on the history and usage of the three basic sticking methods in US drumming and its derivatives-- rudimental, natural, and alternating; and I would add to that something I call pseudo-alternating. I've included some largish snippets of Flack's text, along with a few of my own comments and examples, but definitely go read the entire piece.


Natural

This is the sticking method I learned through drum corps, but it's also very drumset friendly. Basically the lead hand (usually the right) play all notes landing on the 8th note grid, and the left hand plays any e's and a's:



Much of what Flack says below is borne out by my own experience:

The natural sticking method... does not rely on the complex rudimental patterns of military drumming, although a mastery of basic rudimental technique is still important.
The concept behind natural sticking is based on the observation that most people are right handed and therefore the strongest beats which are the “pulse” beats should be played by the strongest hand which is the right hand. All subsequent up-beats are played by the left hand which results in naturally flowing sticking patterns throughout.
In his book, Championship Concepts for Marching Percussion, Thom Hannum wrote that the natural sticking system, “negates any awkward doublings of one hand or the other.” Hannum then prescribes a series of 16th note timing exercises based on duple and triple beat check patterns. To explain their sticking he says, “All stickings are derived by eliminating the stroke of the note which is rested. Then play the remaining values in the sequence of natural sticking.”(1)
Natural sticking is generally easier for most people to learn; it enables less experienced players to more readily produce an even and consistent quality of sound. Natural sticking is an excellent option for marching band drum lines because the simple sticking patterns facilitate the ability to play at faster tempos while presenting a visually uniform style. Drum lines using the natural sticking system can more quickly adapt to changes in musical scores, requiring less rehearsal time.

Much more after the break:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Coordination with a dotted-quarter cymbal pattern - part 2

Here's part two of our series of Elvin-esque four way coordination in a waltz feel, with a dotted-quarter note cymbal rhythm. Here the bass drum is in unison with the cymbal, and it's a little easier than the last entry.  It would've made a nice part one for that reason, but that's blogging for you-- things don't always follow logical sequence. Maybe I'll switch them around in next year's Book of the Blog.


In addition to our previous instructions, I think it's a good idea to count out loud while working these out-- it's rather challenging at first on the 4/4 phrase-- count "1 2 3 4 2 2 3 4 3 2 3 4 4 2 3 4" there. A good variation to make on these would be to add another cymbal note on the & of 3, completing the metric modulation-- we'll get into that later.

Get the pdf

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I think this is what is referred to as a "chestnut"

Here's a book that has been part of the terrain forever, but which is much more valuable than you might expect: Haskell Harr's Drum Method. It's a two-volume item, and I've only used Book 2, which I've found to be excellent for general conditioning.

First published in 1938, and mostly derived from military drum and fife repertoire, it represents the most retrograde style of rudimental drumming, with scarcely a trace of any kind of modernity-- certainly none of the swing influence found in books by Wilcoxon or even the much earlier Edward B. Straight. The pieces included have names like Mildred Waltz, Cuckoo Quick-Step, Ancient And Honorable Artillery, and Bunker Hill. Included, of course, is the turgid old Downfall Of Paris. They are mostly two-part little pieces, which I suspect are meant to be played AABA, or AABBA-- I'm no expert in traditional military music. The book is actually usable because unlike many other older sources, it mostly uses modern notation.

There's nothing exceptionally challenging in it, and there's little in the way of equality between the hands, with no special attention given to strengthening the left. The left has certain little special things it does regularly-- the flamacue; seven stroke rolls, etc-- but mostly it follows the right. The only time the left has the lead is on rudiments that alternate, following the right handed version of the rudiment.

Here's a representative example:




And a nice performance of one of the pieces:




Now, despite my background in drum corps, I don't consider myself to be any kind of rudimental drummer, or to have a big rudimental influence in my regular playing. But I've found that as a jazz drummer, a few days of playing through a good chunk of the book-- 30-60 minutes worth-- is really good for my hands. It seems to "foreground" a variety of things I'm able to play, but that don't always come out when improvising. I haven't experienced quite the same effect with any other single book. So rather than using it as a primary method, I use it more as a "finish" book. I play it straight, without any kind of jazz-like interpretation, mf, and in the originally intended tempo range-- roughly quarter note = 92-126 in 2/4, and dotted quarter = 69-100 in 6/8.

Purchase Book 2 of Haskell Harr's Drum Method through my Amazon store.

Groove o' the day: Ed Blackwell - another 6/8

UPDATE: Whoops, a typo, gitoutcher pencils-- scratch that last tom note in the second measure.

Here's another entry in my little project of cataloging as many of Ed Blackwell's grooves as I can figure out. Many of them are pretty inscrutable, so I've been starting with the low-hanging fruit. Here's another one in 6, from the song Togo on Old and New Dreams's self-titled record on ECM, one of my favorite records ever:




This tune is not posted on YouTube, but you can purchase the track (and hear the groove played in the sample) from Amazon.com. You should really do yourself a favor and buy the record, though.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Transcription: Frankie Dunlop -- Hackensack

Let's see how many of these I can do in coming weeks; I've always loved the way Frankie Dunlop plays the heads on the Thelonious Monk records, so here's Hackensack, from the album Criss Cross:



On the top staff I've given the rhythm of the tune, and of Monk's intro, so you can see how Dunlop's playing supports it. He plays melodic, swingy punctuations on the drums with a big sound, while sketchily rendering the time feel; the cymbals are played fairly lightly, with no big punctuations-- he doesn't actually crash on them here. He mixes up his playing a bit between the ride cymbal and the open hihat, but it can actually be a bit hard to distinguish, and since they both fulfill the same function, I haven't attempted to sort out which individual hits are on which cymbal. He does play most of the last A on the hihats. He tends to leave a little space on the first measure of each phrase, and doesn't do the obvious things at the big changes-- at the bridge (at measure 25 of the transcription) or the beginning of the solos-- he does fill into the change, but he doesn't play a strong punctuation at the barline, or kick immediately into a more driving feel.

Get the pdf

YouTube audio after the break:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tom moves revisited

I've been using these moves around the drums a lot in my own practice-- if you've been working with the Elvin's Afro Waltz series, you probably have too-- and have evolved them slightly, so I thought I'd share that with you. As you can see here, I've added some inversions of the main moves:

Key:
S = snare drum (normal stroke, or rim click)
H = high tom
L = low tom

Between two drums:
S H S H / H S H S
S L S L / L S L S
H L H L / L H L H

Away from/back to one drum:
S H S L / H S L S / L S H S
H S H L / S H L H / L H S H
L S L H / S L H L / H L S L

Down / up the drums, or clockwise / counterclockwise: 
S H L / H L S / L S H
S L H / L S H / H S L

The reason for the extra inversions is that when doing a moving part with the same number of notes per measure as there are in the move, the resulting pattern will start on the same drum every measure. So, you may want to explore some other possibilities. It takes more time to do the extra patterns, so I do them when I want to hear something else happen musically with a pattern; I don't necessarily do them routinely. There's certainly no need to do them when the pattern starts on a different drum every measure/repeat.

One more thing: You could do these with one note only per drum, but I will generally put doubles or multiples on one drum, and do the moves when there's enough time to make them easily. So, this pattern from the first installment of the Elvin thing:


...would be played like this when using the SHL move:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Coordination with a dotted-quarter cymbal pattern - part 1

There's got to be a better title for that, but I don't know what it is. Frankly, I'm just lucky if I can get anything posted at all at this point. Here we're looking at developing dotted-quarter time within 3/4 and 4/4-- an extremely common thing in Elvin Jones's playing, among others-- starting with another challenging page of coordination in the tradition of my Elvin's Afro Waltz series of posts:



Learn them in 3/4, then apply them to the 4/4 phrase at the end of the page. It's probably a good idea to put a few measures of time in 3/4 or 4/4 in between exercises. As always, play these with the tom moves, while keeping track of the four-measure phrase. If necessary, you can simplify the ostinato by eliminating the bass drum on the & of beat 3.

Get the pdf

Sunday, August 12, 2012

DBMITW: George Duke

Here's Sugar Loaf Mountain, from George Duke's Brazilian Love Affair, one of the three essential albums of his, along with Reach For It and Frank Zappa's Roxy & Elsewhere. That's Ricky Lawson providing the crushing funk groove:


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Groove o' the day: Jungle Man

Another Zigaboo Modeliste groove today, from Jungle Man on The Meters album Rejuvenation:




Half-swing the 16th notes-- listen to the track to hear the correct interpretation.

YouTube audio after the break:


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Rudimental Reed: five stroke rolls

I've been fooling around with applying some rudiments to the long exercises in Syncopation, by Ted Reed. We'll start humbly with it, converting the written quarter notes (and tied 8ths) to untied rolls-- an 8th note roll with an 8th note release. There are a few dotted quarter notes, which become a quarter note roll with an 8th note release:



This should be played at a medium to bright tempo. The release notes are not part of the written melody, obviously, and we're trying to give the impression of untied quarter note-length rolls, so don't play the releases too strongly. This method is easy enough that you should have little problem using it on the fly to the other long exercises in Reed. You can do the rolls open or closed, as either 5-strokes or 7-strokes-- or 9s or 13s on the quarter note-value rolls:

Get the pdf.

Friday, August 03, 2012

VOQOTD: Bruce Lee

"Before I learned the art, a punch was just a punch, and a kick, just a kick.

After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick, no longer a kick.

Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick."

-- Bruce Lee

(h/t to Jeff Almeyda in NYC)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Groove o' the day: Copeland's cha cha

Keith, not Stewart. Here's a groove I've gotten some use out of recently while subbing with Pepe & The Bottle Blondes, a Portland salsa/swing group, for my man Ken Ollis. It's a unique form of cha cha pulled from Keith Copeland's Creative Coordination for the Performing Drummer, which has proven to be really effective. Here the cowbell is simulated by the left hand, and the toms are played by the right, which is unusual:



Here's a nice two-measure version:


Experiment with other RH tom moves for variety or for fills. The cha cha is a medium tempo dance groove, so you don't need to get real fancy with it, or work for any kind of speed. Don't play the cymbal or the bass drum too loud.

If you're not familiar with the feel, there's a recorded example after the break:

DBMITW: Jon Christensen is great

Jon Christensen, on Ralph Towner's Solstice:




Maybe it's not a perfect analogue, but I think of him as the Billy Higgins of the fusion era-- an egoless (in his playing, at least!), perfectly musical drummer.

A couple of more tracks from this record after the break: